BAMMM!!! BAMMMM!!! BAMMMM!!!!
Booming, resonant shockwaves detonated themselves through the once serene Merry Waterfall as billions of dust particles dominated the air. The flat and rocky terrain of the basin had been littered with dozens of craters that could have only been caused by a meteor shower. At the centre of the carnage, there was one four-metre tall giant gorilla that had all his four limbs coated in black whirlwinds. From his back, a large metallic chain extended out and linked him to a floating Vaishya that was monitoring the surroundings from a safe distance. Each time the ape-man received a plethora of cuts or bruises, the chain would light up, and a torrent of mana would instantly rejuvenate the bulked monster, clearing any injuries that he may have sustained.
Standing just a few metres away from the Vaishya, one black-haired young man stood tall with his trusted ice spear in his hands. His hair was ruffled and face covered with dust and sweat, Shin continued to hold his own against the boosted Spirit Spectre. It was hard enough to fight a Vaishya on his own, but now that he had the support of an auxiliary Spirit Spectre as well… Defeating the monkey man was akin to climbing the tallest peak with all his hands tied to an ox.
Nonetheless, the young man still managed to hold out. Though Vaishya Craig had the superior power, speed, agility and spiritual energies, Shin had his trusted first ability. Using a mixture of water tendrils, water weapons, water bombs, water golems and even healing mist, Shin was able to stop his opponent from landing a fatal blow for five minutes now. He had even injured the Vaishya multiple times as well. If not for his ally’s Temporal Chains, Shin was confident that the gorilla in front of him would have collapsed ten times over by now.
It wasn’t just Shin who was frustrated. Vaishya Craig had to place his hand up to his face to prevent his jaw from dropping and teeth from gnawing out in anger. If someone had told him that he would be hard-pressed to take down a Spirit Adept with the assistance of Susan this morning, the Craig would have laughed it off and slapped that idiot so hard that he wouldn’t be able to see the light of tomorrow. Yet, before the Vaishya, there was an enigma of the world.
By now, any Spirit Adept would have collapsed after experiencing the joint might of Craig and Susan. However, Shin didn’t comply with the standard rules of the cultivation world. In fact, there were even times where Craig NEEDED Susan’s assistance.
‘What a monster… I have been trying to take him out for the past five minutes, and he had almost claimed my life seven times.’ Thinking back to the close shaves that he had when facing Shin’s Spear of Aiglos, the Vaishya furrowed his brows and tapped his whole body. When in his Spiritual Body Enhancement state, his defence quadruples as his hide and skin thickened rapidly using mana strengthening. However, even with that added defence, Shin was still capable of piercing through his flesh and threatening his vital organs. Furthermore, with each passing minute, the young man was getting more accurate with his strikes. It was as if…
‘It’s as if he had examined my martial arts and movements in that brief five minutes to come up with counters!’ Craig theorised.
To offset getting fully read, the Vaishya had ordered the seven Shudras to gang up on Shin to wear down his endurance and mana reserves. However, sending Spirit Adepts to take on Shin was akin to feeding lambs to a hungry wolf. In just mere seconds, Shin had managed to paralyse three Shudras and slapped away the rest with his water tendrils. Though he was a Rank 37 Spirit Adept himself, the way that Shin fights was in no way inferior to a Spirit Spectre. Heck, he was even giving Craig, a veteran Vaishya that had been fighting against the odds all his life, trouble in landing a single blow.
‘Junius… What the hell did you feed your younger brother?!’
Turning over his shoulder, Craig saw his boss watching over the bout with a soft glitter in his eyes. Not only was Junius emotional over seeing Shin again after all these years, but he was also engulfed in a wave of nostalgia. Back on Frie Mountain, Shin wasn’t this powerful and neither was he so resourceful. In the years where Junius hadn’t seen him, the young man had grown into a powerhouse that could easily fight back the majority of his forces. How could Junius not feel emotional?
‘He’s totally out of it… Fuck! If he unleashed his wrath, I’m sure we could dispatch this brat easily!’ The Vaishya thought back on the numerous times where Junius decimated his foes with his Obsidian Water Sword and the Legendary-Grade Odachi that was handed to him by the Allfather. Screw Rank 50 Kshatriyas, if Junius were at his best, Craig would undoubtedly choose the water swordsman to be his partner in crime.
‘Whatever… Since it has come to this, I’ll blow that brat up with an all-out assault!!!’ The monkey man steeled his nerves to execute the most violent ability that he had.
At the same time, Shin was still taking a breather all while remaining as vigilant as he possibly could. After dozens of exchanges with the storm ape, Shin felt a warm heat hiding behind his ears as each throb of his heart resonated through his entire being. Each pore in his body opened up, and his five senses were heightened exponentially. The adrenaline rushing to his head, Shin could see the world in a much clearer light.
Craig was standing ten metres in front of him while the Healer Vaishya was levitating high up in the air. Behind him, there were the remaining four Shudras blocking his path to retreat all while Junius watched over the entire battle. It wasn’t an optimal position to be in, but Shin felt that in his current state, anything was possible.
‘I defeated three Shudras already… I have to take down the four remaining ones before I can comfortably make my escape.’ Shin had long planned on his next course of actions once the flare was fired. With his first spiritual ability, the young man was capable of controlling his surroundings and dealing with multiple enemies at once. Of course, it was helpful that none of the Black Masks was allowed to overly harm him due to Junius’ orders as well.
‘The flare… Damn it, did they encounter some sort of problem? Or did I miss it?’ wondered Shin.
For Kanari and Isadore, the two fastest members of the group, getting Latina to safety wasn’t that difficult of a task. Yet, even after five minutes, there hasn’t been any indication that they had promptly escaped.
‘Shit… Could it be that there are other Black Masks in the region? Urgh… There are too many variables to consider. If I don’t see the flare within the next two to three minutes, I should just make a run for it.’
Shin considered all of his options. While it may seem that he had the upper hand, even he knew that defeating the three Spirit Spectres would be a tall task. Craig was still in the pink of health with Susan supporting him with a seemingly endless supply of mana. Not to mention, the big baddie of them all, Junius, had yet to act. Shin’s mana wasn’t infinite. If he wanted to escape, Shin needed to do it quickly before fatigue and mana exhaustion takes over.
During his brief moment of contemplation, Vaishya Craig had bent down on one knee, summoning out an entire hurricane of black wind to congregate in his location. The trees surrounding the waterfall were all uprooted by the sudden downdraft, and thousands of rocks and pebbles rose from their slumber to join in the fun. The wind elements danced about in joy as the mini-typhoon grew larger and larger until the Black Mask was hidden from sight. The hairs on Shin’s arms stood erect and pointed themselves in the opposite direction as if they were in fear of the tremendous mana being released from the tornado torrent.
‘Danger!’ That was all that Shin’s consciousness could think off. In a panic, Shin sent all of his mana into his legs and executed the Lightning Swallow Steps, in hopes of avoiding the carnage that was about to ensue. Unfortunately, the Black Masks had anticipated his movements. All of a sudden, a darkness chain rushed out from Vaishya Susan’s body and wrapped itself firmly on the ankles of Shin.
Sending numerous water spears onto the chain, Shin hoped to break through the bindings. He had even used the Spear of Aiglos multiple times, but it was to no avail. No matter how much he attacked the metallic chains, it completely remained unscathed by Shin’s desperate attempts. And then… The world turned black.
Vaishya Craig released the hurricane that he had been gathering and the storm tornado sped violently at the Shin who was stuck. Swept off his feet, the young man was flung into the cyclone, and his senses were sent into disarray. Not knowing where was the ground, Shin struggled to make sense of his surroundings as uprooted trees and boulders flew dangerously past him. The blackened wind made his eyes completely useless, and the rapidly whizzing of the wind rendered his superior hearing obsolete. The only thing that Shin could do to defend himself was to create a water bubble surrounding his body and hope for the best.
The darkness tornado curved once before crashing straight into Merry Waterfall, completely decimating the gorgeous natural wonder. Instantly, half of the cliff had been broken apart as the water gushing down from the top rapidly sped down as if it were a broken dam. In just that half minute, the waterfall had turned into a flattened lake with piles of debris covering its surface.
“CRAIG!!! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING!!!” A crazed scream echoed through the valley as a tall young man jumped right in front of the lake. Junius, who had been sidelined by his subordinates, finally moved after he watched Shin get swept up by the immense dark tornado. Pointing his sword straight at Vaishya Craig’s throat, Junius threatened to end the life of his reckless underling for disobeying his orders.
“Junius. You wanted me to incapacitate that brat, and I used the fastest method I had.” Craig coldly replied. “If he’s injured, we can just ask Susan to heal him right up. There’s no harm done.”
“YOU FUCKER!!!” Junius lost his cool and pressed the odachi deeper into the monkey man’s skin. Though Craig had been boosted by his Spiritual Body Enhancement and superior mana strengthening, Junius’ blade sunk in as effortlessly as a heated knife through butter. If Junius were to place a little more strength, Craig’s head would have unquestionably be sliced right open.
“Junius! Craig is right!” The final Vaishya, Susan, flew down and held on to Junius’ arm, holding back her enraged superior from ending the life of her comrade. “Your younger brother was too powerful. That was the only way that we could have immobilised him! If we had prolonged the bout, he would most definitely prove too slippery to catch! Furthermore, we shouldn’t waste any more time quarrelling. Every second we waste is a second that could be used to dig your brother out from the gravel.”
“…” Junius wanted to retort, but his mind was way too muddled by his worry for Shin’s safety. Pulling his odachi away from the monkey man’s neck, Junius sheathed the blade and barked out his orders:
“Pull Shin out from the debris right now!!! If anything were to happen to him, Craig your head will be the first to roll!”
Tsttt… Tsttt… Tsttt…
Deep within the ruined waterfall, the only sound that could be heard was the faint tapping of gravel rolling down the top. Surrounded by darkness, Shin was covered by tonnes upon tonnes of fallen boulders and remnant dripping water.
‘Urgh… My head hurts…’ Shin groaned. On his body, there were hundreds of small cuts and bruises, and it aches all over. There wasn’t any natural light, so Shin had to improvise by summoning out The Sovereign Koi to act as his torchlight. Swirling around Shin’s wrists, the divine fish looked around in confusion only to see its owner lying about while rubbing his forehead.
‘What a crazy attack… If not for my ‘Aegis Bubble’, I’m sure I would be knocked out by now.’ Shin thought to himself. Allowing a cerulean-gold light to flow from The Sovereign Koi to his body, Shin felt his pains get washed away as if they were mud.
‘Those assholes… If the ‘Shard’ didn’t have so many drawbacks, I would have blasted them all away by now!’ The young man created multiple water tendrils to move immediate boulders away from him. At the same time, Shin heightened his senses to observe his surroundings.
‘As expected, those idiots are trying to pull me out from the rubble. Ah… Looks like there’s no way of avoiding them for my escape huh?’
Though he had been blasted with a force capable enough to destroy an entire waterfall, Shin was mostly unhurt. In the end, his objective was to leave this place not to face the Black Masks head on.
‘I guess the rest should have reached safety by now… It’s probably time to leave.’
Shin picked up the Spear of Aiglos beside him and readied himself for the great escape. It wouldn’t be easy. Three Spirit Spectres and four Spirit Adepts. Each one baptised by the Allfather’s mana to become bloodthirsty villains that would bat an eye when it came to injuring their foes. Fortunately, Shin had a distinct advantage. The element of surprise.
They didn’t know that Shin was in a perfect condition and may have let their guards down. Once he sees an opening, Shin would bolt forward with everything that he’d got using his Dance of the Valkyrie, not giving them any chance to react.
‘So now… Let’s play the waiting game.’